Cotacachi / Cotacachi / Ecuador Culture / Ecuador Lifestyle / Living in Ecuador / Self-Sustainability in Ecuador

Waiting for Manana

After slogging through 2 1/2 years of broken promises, confusing explanations, delays and more delays, excuses, denials and the occasional blank stare, Gary and I are once again very close to final approval on our land project in Cotacachi.  Supposedly just two days away, as in this Friday.

The municipality official in charge of approving these things told us 6 months ago that she would stamp our project approved immediately upon receiving all the paper work.  “Immediately” was the operative word in her communication.

Words can have their own unique Ecuadorian definitions and barely-perceptible permutations that are as different from their dictionary translations into English as the north is from the south.  There should be a class in advanced Ecuador-speak.

Just as our architect and developer told us they’d have the work completed in 4 months as long as those they depended upon for documents and work “followed through with their part,” (and now 2 1/2 years have passed), so the municipality official told us “immediately.”

But like “manana”, the word “immediately” has layers of meaning.  It’s definition can expand into infinity.

I now suspect that the two words are intricately entwined and possibly interchangeable in meaning. Manana hints at tomorrow and immediately means right now, ahorita, to me.  But in the Ecuadorian sense of time, if something happens next week or next month, that could have much more immediacy than next year and thus be true to their idea of immediately.

Or am I grasping at straws?

I’ve pretty much given up trying to figure it out or change it (well, almost), because it can’t be done.

Some say it’s simply another example of what I call BS–bureaucratic syndrome. I hope it’s not an exercise in power and control, but sometimes I do feel like a puppet on a string.

Whatever the reason, immediately has now stretched into another 5 week’s delay beyond the 2.5 years and each week there is something else to do, another paper needed that was never mentioned before, another signature, another delay.

I know this is a common occurrence in Ecuador because I hear newbies speak of it, usually in exasperated tones.  “I went all the way to Quito for my visa and each time there was something else to do!”  Or, They lost my papers and I had to do it all over!”  Or, “The laws have changed!”  Or, “There’s a new whatever and he doesn’t do things like the last one.”

This is followed by a wide range of emotional expression–popping eyeballs, waving hands, arms thrown up in the air in hopelessness or resignation, red-faces, wringing of hands, loud voices, shaking heads, sighs, crying, anger, disgust, disdain.  Getting a visa/deed/container/drivers’ license in Ecuador results in expats finding new emotions they never knew they had.  With so much training, many of us could perform as well as the best character actors on stage.

Our approval was delayed for about 9 months because the architect hadn’t turned in all the paperwork.  He said it was because he couldn’t get his engineer to finish our water and sewer plans.

He finally got that turned in, but there was another document he had to deliver.  Then Gary had to get a doc, but when he showed up with it, eager for a signature of approval, he was told to come back next week.

The next week we were told that the architect needed to bring yet another paper and then in two more days. . .  Thus we wait.

I’ve learned not to pour the champagne or hire a band to celebrate a victorious outcome prematurely. I’m not feeling giddy, eager or joyous at the oh-so-near prospect of success.  Nor will I burst into tears, quiver with frustration or feel dashed, dejected or devastated if we don’t get the stamp on the little piece of paper this Friday.  Been there, done that.

IF the approval comes tomorrow, you won’t hear fireworks or screams of delight from our end of town.  There will be no party, no busting out the bubbly, (well, maybe a little bit) no rapturous visions of moving ahead.

We’ve seen how things ‘move ahead’ and it’s like molasses flowing on a cold day, like a snail traversing a sidewalk or a turtle . . . You get the picture.

We’ve seen tomorrow in Ecuador and it stretches indefinitely into the future, perhaps even into another century.

The closest I can come to describing what I feel is a kind of neutrality with remnants of hopefulness, wanting to co-create with Mother Nature Ecuadorian style and not being as attached to doing that as I’ve been in the past.

Have I given up the dream or am I surrendered to what is?  I think both.

And I feel much  better in this state of heart and mind than in the past when I’ve been so disappointed and angry at how long it takes to create what I want here.  An old friend once accused me of postponing paradise.  Well, this time, it’s not entirely my fault.

What Gary and I have decided to do is make a clean break for a while.  We’re giving ourselves a dose of the best medicine in the world for breaking out of old patterns.  My antidote for waiting out Ecuadorian manana is a good, healthy dose of travel and fun.

We will get our approval or not.  In the meantime, there are new horizons to explore.

We will play with our grandchildren.  We will grow a vegetable garden, swim in the river, eat strawberries and go to festivals. We will dance and sing to a different drummer in a different country.

At some point in time, we’ll get our stamp of approval.  Then we or someone else can create something wonderful on our little bit of paradise.

Perhaps it isn’t our destiny to do that.  Perhaps our job was to dream the dream, get things started and muse someone else.

We’ve **blessedly entered a state of surrender and non-attachment while waiting for an outcome, but who says we have to do our waiting in Ecuador.  We are putting into practice one of the highest of spiritual concepts–Trust in God and have more fun while waiting for manana.

**I say blessedly because otherwise we might end up like the two main characters in Beckett’s absurdist play, “Waiting for Godot.” They spend 2 acts waiting for a man who never arrives.

I shudder at the similarities. While Vladimir and Estragon keep themselves occupied distractedly in one spot, they also contemplate suicide, which would indicate that they are not too accepting of the wait.

In one reviewer’s words, “Waiting for Godot” is “a play in which nothing happens, that yet keeps audiences glued to their seats.” . . . “a play in which nothing happens, twice.”

We’ve had nothing happen far more than twice.  And managed to distract ourselves enough to think we were getting something done while getting nothing much done at all.

There’ll be no more treading water, waiting for Godot or local bureaucrats.

In order to lighten our load, we are selling nearly all our furniture, appliances and household items. Here’s a sample–

Antique headboard and twin bed.

Hand-carved wood cabinet with 10 drawers.

We haven’t given up our organic, sustainable dream in Cotacachi, just how it will look and how and when it will happen.  Until then,  tango anyone?



    • Hi Joan,

      Glad you made it back to Ecuador and sorry we missed you. I had one other comment this morning that someone couldn’t open the Adios post. However, it opens on my computer with no problem, so I am not sure what the issue is. You may want to try to open it with a different browser. I have occasionally had problems trying to open various things with Firefox, but then try on Internet Explore and it works. Linda will contact you later.

    • Hi Joan! So you are back in Ecuador. Is your daughter with you? We may be coming and going more like you do. How many trips have you made to Ecuador in the last 4 or 5 years?

      Jahua Pacha is looking pretty good, isn’t it? Is the communal building open for use now? I’m sure our paths will cross again one of these days soon.

      If you can’t read my blog in the newsletter here’s the link–

  1. Patricia Valderrama says:

    Really glad to find your blog, quite entertaining and great information. Actually I am colombian leaving in Vancouver, Canada for 15 years, married to an ecuadorian who has been in Canada for 25 years , he still has family and dear childhood friends in Quito. We will be in Ecuador for his nephew graduation this July. Sorry about you ordeal with bureaucracy, very frustrated but nice to see a positive spirit.

    I starting to feel that my time here is over, love my work but its only seasonal and also the film industry in BC is in crisis, my husband is a cinematographer , my boys are growing up, my little is starting university this fall, so I am trying to convince my husband to go back to Latinoamerica, as my husband will never go to live in Colombia, I am looking Ecuador as our place and specially Cotacachi. We had already invested in a pice of land in Intag, Not sure what is the plan but for now just go visit the town , feel the energy and see. I would love to meet you while in town.

    Patricia. David is my husband. Right know shooting a movie and don’t know much about my researches.

  2. Thanks for your thoughts on EC. Ken Shaw sent me your blog and I’m enjoying it immensely from my desk in Santa Fe, NM.
    The bottom piece of furniture you show reminds me of the cabinetry that our company provides for Kitchens and Baths here. I”ve been wondering if we could do something similar there. We are planning to come for a look see visit between mid July and Mid August. Hoping we can still afford it there as it sounds like things are changing pronto.
    Hope we get to meet you both…and if you are Stateside…we would love to meet/host you in SFe.
    Kind Regards,
    Lannie Loeks, Chris Clemens and Chloe

  3. Maybe they need financial support while they work on paperwork or they just do not want foreigners buy their land and build on it.

  4. Hi: I’ve been reading thru some of your blogs and my husband and I were seriously contemplating a move within the next few years. We were hoping to find a spot where we may eventually run a little B&B, but this seems to be a very remote possibility. Do you know if Canadians are/or would ever be able to do this? It seems that you are now very frustrated with everything and are opting to move onto some other country. Any info/advice that you could give me would be great! Take Care and I wish you the best in your future endeavours – whatever they may be :)

    • Tanya, we do our best on this site to portrait an accurate picture of life in Ecuador, not just the good stuff. Yes, I have felt frustration at the bureaucracy involved with our land development and the great amount of time it’s taken to get the first step done. But that’s life, positive and negative, up and down, the endless dualities. Being frustrated doesn’t change the system, so I do my best to move out of that state of mind as quickly as I can.

      We are not moving permanently to another country. We have always wanted to have homes in several countries and travel back and forth. That is our dream with Ecuador–to have a home there and also be able to spend quality time in the states with our families. That’s what is unfolding now.

      We lived full-time in Ecuador for over six years, making frequent trips to the U.S. Now we will live in the states for a year, visiting Ecuador as we continue the process of land development.

      Thanks for your good wishes. My best advice is to surrender to what life brings as best you can. That applies especially to Ecuador.

      With regard to running a B&B in Ecuador, that is fully possible. Last I knew, the very excellent Black Sheep Inn was for sale.

      It’s a big learning curve to become a resident, buy property, open a business, etc. Being fluent in Spanish is most advantageous.

  5. So…. you’re saying the good life in ecuador isn’t all that good afterall?!

    Where to next?

    • I’m saying that life is pretty darn good most of the time, even when things don’t happen the way I think they should or in the time-frame I think they should.